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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Growing interest in utilizing smallholder farmers


The director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Dr. Carlos Seré, has recently published an insightful in the Guardian titled; Backing smallholder farmers today could avert food crises tomorrow.  Based on the rise of food crises and food riots in the developing world, Dr. Seré makes a strong case for using smallholder farming as a means to reduce poverty and hunger. The focus of his article is exactly what we in Markets at DAPA are working on. Especially in the area of New Business Models (NBMs).

Even though smallholders form the ‘backbone’ of world food production, they are a quite evidently an underutilized resource. They present new opportunities for agribusinesses to reduce supply risks as well as kick starting rural development. Due to his background, Dr. Seré discusses this issue within the prism of livestock farming. According to him, there needs to be an emphasis on collaboration and transparency between actors. With the right support, smallholders can be just as or even more efficient than large farmers. For example, there are a range of inputs and skills agribusinesses can provide to small farmers. However, he does not mention too much about the important role governments can play. Acting as a facilitator to increase smallholder access and providing incentives to agribusinesses to invest are some of them. The article also focuses on Africa and South Asia but its suggestions can easily be extended to Latin America and South East Asia.

Overall rural communities in the Global South face tough times. Directing our attention towards large scale farming has not arrested the process of rural to urban migration. As the rural poor continue to leave the countryside for cities in search of a better life, they are often subjugated to the harsh conditions of urban realities. Small holder farming can provide incentives for communities to stay on the land, whilst combating the twin objectives of economic security and increasing food production.

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